In my last blog post, I wrote about my belief in the importance of family photography, more specifically for the family with autism 'in the mix', meaning with a family member on the autism spectrum (ASD, or ASC). These are my personal feelings, about something that just makes sense to me, not about any studies or academia or whatnot. This is something that is valuable to me. So, in the first part of this blog series I focused on the value for the visual learner, the autistic person. Read more about that here. But wait, there's more... (I've got a busy little brain when it comes to this topic!)
Spectrum kids often struggle – socially, emotionally, with sensory processing, and so on – with their everyday life. An average school day can be monumentally challenging for them, and overwhelming in all different ways. Their family and home is, even more than for most kids, their safe place. Sometimes, as other mums will know, being a safe place doesn't always mean we get their best behaviour! But we are their haven, and often their translators, in a world of overwhelm and uncertainty. So the bond, the need, is just woven that little bit more tightly, keeping us - as their anchor - nice and strongly secured.
Firstly, this is a precious relationship, a unique relationship, with the beautiful and treasured connection between parent and child, between family members, enhanced by the intensity of the autism experience. From going through the diagnostic process, to the way we look at the world through their eyes, and filter the world for them when we can, there is an added layer to our family life that can be brilliantly rewarding, and supremely difficult at times. This is a relationship that deserves documenting, capturing and remembering.
That this is valuable, worth capturing, enjoying and celebrating, is ever true of these intricate family ties, which are always 'limited edition' and everchanging in every family. And so, this is ever more true of any family with special challenges in their lives.
Secondly, with these additionally layered family ties, these bonds can be even harder to cherish in the everyday. Where parents may be carers, therapists and advocates as well as mother or father; where the behaviours they work through may involve aggression, non-communication, self-destruction and anxiety; where the worries and concern stretch years into the future as well as each hour of the day... these relationships can, at times, be exercises in endurance. Not that there aren't moments of gratitude, reward and delight - and those are wonderful times – but there are certainly seasons where it is hard to stop coping and celebrate. Honouring these relationships is an exercise in optimism and gladness, and a deliberate focus on what is uniquely brilliant about our particularly different kids. Sometimes we're just too tired.
Taking that time to organise, lead up to and participate in a family photography session is beautiful, and meaningful, and a gorgeous testament to the strength you draw on every day of your life. It's a celebration of the individuals that make up your stunningly unique family, and a celebration of the love you share. Because of it all, despite it all, sometimes not and then twice as much again. This is real, this is extraordinary, this is powerful. This is you.